Fontbonne University Adjunct Professor Michele Bildner is the 2022 Recipient of the SOPHE Award.
Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) Karen Denard Goldman Health Education Mentor Award recognizes a National SOPHE member in an academic or practice setting who has made a significant contribution to the preparation and/or performance of health educators and has successfully forged the link between practice and research. The Karen Denard Goldman Health Education Mentor Award recognizes SOPHE members who have distinguished themselves as outstanding mentors through
- Fostering the bridge linking research and practice
- Impacting the professional development of others
- implementing creative strategies for the mentoring process.
We are so proud of Michele’s accomplishment and sat down with her to learn more:
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a first-generation college student living in the Midwestern United States. I started my career in community nutrition, having earned a B.S. in Dietetics. Over the last three years, I have designed and taught four different courses in health education and promotion at my alma mater. As a Master Certified Health Education Specialist, I am extremely fond of mentoring my students in their early career journeys. I serve as a voluntary leader in multiple capacities with (SOPHE). I am currently the president of our Midwest chapter, where I hope to advance public health policy advocacy and build a new cadre of leaders. My focus has evolved in the last handful of years into striving to achieve racial equity. I am constantly learning how to undo racism in my own life, analyze its impact as a structural determinant of health, and commit to an anti-racist public health leadership practice. By day, I am a Project Manager in Non-Infectious Disease Programs with the CDC Foundation.
Where are you from?
I am born and raised in St. Louis but spent my early 20s in Chicago and lived in Knoxville, Tennessee during my Master of Public Health degree.
Why did you choose Fontbonne?
I attended Fontbonne as an undergraduate in the Family Consumer Science Department, studying Dietetics. I chose Fontbonne because of its solid reputation of faculty and staff working closely with students, the smaller class sizes, and the program outcomes such as career placement and preparedness for advanced degrees. I would not have advanced into a master’s degree without the support I received at Fontbonne, namely my academic advisor.
I decided to teach at Fontbonne versus other higher education institutions because of my experience as a student. Additionally, I had the pleasure of working with existing Health Education Promotion (HEP) students as an internship preceptor. It provided me an insight into the curriculum, student expectations, and how the students were being prepared for practice.
Why did you choose this program? (Health Education and Promotion)
At a certain point in the Dietetics program, students are introduced to community nutrition and health, and that really opened my eyes to the world of public health and health education. As a younger student, I thought I’d be focused on bench sciences like biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and so forth. However, my real-world experience and status as an adult student painted a more holistic and macro view of health that really spoke to me. I’m a public health person through and through, and my Family Consumer Science (FCS) background pairs nicely with community health education.
Teaching in this program means that students get first-hand experiences in the practice setting with health education and promotion practitioners through culminating practicums and internships. I cannot say enough great things about the service-learning emphasis at Fontbonne.
What are the best parts of this department?
The students are undoubtedly the best part of the department! So much about health is contextual, with health being driven primarily by where we live, learn, work, worship, and pray. Our students reflect a diversity that challenges us to teach what we preach, knowing that one size does not fit all. And, with a broad program focus, our students are able to test different content and topics to see where they may want to gain subject matter expertise. This means our students explore topics across and within the foundational public health services (i.e., communicable disease; chronic disease and injury prevention; environmental public health; maternal, child, and family health, and access to care).
What is the nomination process for the SOPHE award?
- Complete online nomination
- Several letters of support from SOPHE members and nonmembers.
- Recent resume or curriculum vitae of the nominee.
- The nomination is then panel reviewed.
The award recipient will receive recognition of their achievement during SOPHE’s Annual Conference, Health Education. The SOPHE 2022 Awards Ceremony on March 22 will be live-streamed. Details can be found at www.sophe.org for additional details about the conference, agenda, sessions, and awards ceremony.”
How does this award help support your endeavors in your field?
This award will hopefully demonstrate to other peers and students the value of mentorship and the impact it can have on someone’s life. As an MCHES (Master Certified Health Education Specialist), one of our Areas of Responsibility for professional practice is Ethics and Professionalism. To demonstrate competency in engaging in professional development that enhances my proficiency, we are asked to perform several activities (sub-competencies), one of which is serving as a mentor.
To me, this is the most rewarding way to serve my profession. What started as a selfless endeavor has evolved into a passion, I didn’t know I had. I have simply transferred the value I found in being a mentee into serving as a mentor. I hope people can see that sharing a little bit of yourself with someone else goes a long way in making a huge difference! It’s the golden rule, really.
What would you tell prospective students looking to pursue the same course?
If you’re at Fontbonne, you’re already in the right place. The faculty, staff, and fellow students all want to see you succeed. The field of health education and promotion (HEP) is burgeoning and continues to evolve as society becomes more aware of the value and practicality. The COVID-19 pandemic mobilized a workforce eager to practice, help the dear neighbor, and serve the public. HEP has opportunities for all types of learners and health interests. As faculty, we open that door to test out your skills in assessment, planning, implementation, evaluation, communication, advocacy, leadership and management, and professionalism and ethics.